Sometimes people call me an “elder care” expert. I’m not. I am an elder law lawyer. I practice law. The legal strategies that I undertake to help my elderly and disabled clients may include for example:
- Estate planning: making sure my clients have legal plans and arrangements in place in case anything bad happens, so the the people they want to be in charge to help them are in charge at the right time, to do what they want them to do, Including through the use of Powers of Attorney, Wills and Trusts.
- Asset protection planning: making sure my clients get the care and services that they need while helping them save as much as possible of their own money, by implementing affirmative, proactive, sometimes creative legal strategies.
- Cost of care planning: sometimes when there’s not a lot of money to start with, the goal is not so much to save part of it, as it is to make sure that what’s there is used wisely and well, and to use legal strategies to stretch it as far as it will go to get the care that’s needed.
- And more: long-term care benefits strategic planning, applications and appeals, especially Medicaid
But there are others in the field who are actually elder care experts. Their job is to help patients and families plan to obtain the right kinds of care. An elder care consultant often has a background as a nurse, social worker, healthcare administrator, or in some healthcare or social service capacity. An elder care consultant acts as a health care advocate on behalf of patients and families.
When should you consider using the services of an elder CARE consultant to advise you?
I most often think of recommending that my client add an elder care consultant to their team of advisors to help with a discharge and placement decision, such as if a family member is about to be discharged from a hospital to somewhere other than home. A private advisor may be able to give more diligent, personal help and expertise than a busy hospital discharge planner can provide. They may help answer questions such as, What level of care is needed? Rehab hospital, nursing home or assisted living? Where specifically should they go? Which care facilities providing the right level of care are local and convenient for the family? Where has the care quality of care been slipping, and where has the quality of care been improving lately?
I am present in these facilities on occasion, but an elder care consultant and their supporting team are personally present in these facilities much more frequently, and are able to evaluate and assess services and conditions in each building. It’s their job, rather than mine, to be able to guide a patient and a family to the best specific placement when a patient is being discharged or transferred.
A private elder and disability care consultant may or will also help you by:
- Evaluating the patient’s medical, psychological, cognitive and social needs.
- Understanding medication management,
- Offering functional assessment review and level of care guidance
- Working with care facility staff on your behalf to ensure that they are providing the care that you or your loved one requires
- Developing, implementing and monitoring a plan of care, in a facility or at home
- Maximizing quality of life and independence and preserving dignity
- Showing up in a crisis and at the hospital
- Providing information and answers for patient and family.
- making home care living arrangements.
- accompanying a patient to medical appointments;
- tackling inpatient care problems;
- Addressing questions and problems concerning medical bills;
- resolving healthcare insurance claims and problems;
- pursuing long-term care insurance claims;
- home safety assessment;
- helping to plan and secure benefits;
- paying bills and financial management;
- knowing what additional supports and resources are available; and
- Supporting caregivers.
Elder care advocates and service provider are particularly helpful when a patient has no family close by. Jeff Weinberg of Caregiver Champions calls this part of his service having “boots on the ground.” He says he can be the “eyes and ears” on behalf of out-of-town family, to help care for a patient here.
An elder care consultant often employs a multi-disciplinary team to provide a broad range of services and advice, with professionals such as a nurse, social worker, physical therapist, etc.
One question that sometimes arises is whether or not an elder care consultant will help not only with health care, but also with financial services such as bill paying, or go further to serve as an Agent under financial Power Of Attorney, or even as a court appointed Guardian if one is needed. The willingness and ability to provide some of these financial services, with escalating degrees of legal responsibility and liability if they are serving as a legal fiduciary, varies from one provider to another, and depends on the specific circumstances in each case as well.
Patty Hansen of IKOR of Western Pennsylvania says that her company provides “life care management for seniors and individuals with disabilities.” In addition to stepping in as a healthcare decision-maker when needed, her company does also provide help with every day bill paying and financial management, as well as higher level fiduciary services as an Agent or even as a Guardian.
How should you choose an elder care consultant?
- Referrals from individuals or other professionals
- Read reviews
- Telephone and meet in person to assess compatibility